The parent company of the New York Stock Exchange, Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), is set to drop $335 million to acquire Simplifile, a leading provider of property record databases for county recorder offices.
The planned acquisition would offer ICE a privileged position from which to further digitize the mortgage ecosystem, facilitating the underwriting and closing of mortgages, as well as the transfer of such loans between investors.
That’s because ICE already owns MERS System, a database that tracks changes in mortgage servicing and mortgage ownership for its 5,000 members. It also owns MERS eRegistry, which mortgage originators, banks and investors are increasingly using to create digital promissory notes.
“Simplifile and MERS support the residential lending industry’s shift to digitization and will, together, help to make the mortgage closing process simpler, faster, and more transparent for a range of industry stakeholders,” ICE said in a press release.
The press release notes that the transaction is expected to close in the third quarter, “subject to the expiration or termination of the applicable waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976.”
The law in reference requires large companies to file a report before completing a merger, so regulators can review whether the transaction could lead to anti-competitive behavior.
Simplifile, based in Provo, Utah, provides online databases to county recorder offices that store property documents, such as deeds, mortgage records and tax liens.
With Simplifile, title companies, banks, attorneys, and lien filers can submit documents to the recorder’s office. And recorder can then “electronically review, stamp, record, and return documents back to the submitter within minutes of receipt.”
This can help streamline mortgage closings.
Simplifile’s network covers 1,922 U.S. counties representing over 80 percent of the U.S. population. The company also offers collaborative tools for mortgage lenders and settlement agents working on documents. If the acquisition goes through, Simplifile, which has 200 employees, will continue to operate under the Simplifile name and remain in Provo.
One of MERS more innovative projects is MERS eRegistry, a database of “eNotes.” They’re the digital equivalent of mortgage promissory note. And they’re gaining traction, with the number of eNotes added to the MERS eRegistry in the first quarter of this year surpassing the total number registered for all of 2018. More than 380,000 eNotes have been registered so far.
As the owner of the New York Stock Exchange, ICE claims to raise “more capital than other exchange in the world.” The acquisition looks like part of a bid by ICE to expand its stewardship of much of the stock market to the mortgage market. It bought out MERSCORP Holdings, the owner of MERS System and MERS eRegistry last year — after purchasing a majority stake in the company two years before that.